- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Everyone’s favorite web slinger struck gold at the box office again in his latest cinematic adventure tied to the Marvel Cinematic Universe earlier this year.

The $1 billion plus movie now swings over to ultra-high definition home theater screens in Spider-Man: Far From Home (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, rated PG-13, 129 minutes, 2.39:1 aspect ratio, $45.99).

Picking up roughly eight months after the Avengers reversed an action by the evil Thanos, which wiped out half of all living things in the universe, the story finds the fully restored teenager Peter Parker aka Spider-Man (Tom Holland) back at high school, mourning the loss of mentor Tony Stark and still hopelessly smitten with M.J. Watson (Zendaya).

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When his class goes on a rather generous two-week European fieldtrip, Peter meets Quentin Beck aka Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal), a superpowered human from another dimension trying to stop a gang of multistory interdimensional Elementals (based on Spidey villains Molten Man, Cyclone and Hydro-Man) from destroying the major cities.

The pair work together with help from former S.H.I.E.L.D. agents Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) to stop the large threats, but all is not right with Peter’s new partner Quentin, and his fellow classmates may pay a heavy price.

Of course, all well-read comic book fans know that Mysterio is a villain, and his powers are concocting grand illusions, a subplot that plays out perfectly in the film.

Director Jon Watts delivers another coming-of-age classic set in a deeply rooted superhero universe with a perfect, breezy mix of humor, drama and seat-clenching action.

While Peter laments, “I didn’t think I was going to have to save the world this summer,” it’s impossible not to completely embrace Tom Holland’s portrayal of the awkward teenage hero and his journey for personal growth.

His character must deal with literally being reborn, navigating through the high school experience, exploring young love and battling supervillains.

A great support cast helps Mr. Holland including Zendaya as his equally awkward love interest, Jon Favreau as Tony Stark’s former bodyguard Happy Hogan, Maria Tomei as Peter’s Aunt May and Mr. Gyllenhaal, who has the innate ability to act like the nicest guy on the planet.

Again it’s worth noting that the character roster and actors available to these films are a Marvel comic book fans’ dream, and the appearance of grouchy, Spider-Man hating, editor of the Daily Bugle, J Jonah Jameson (played by the J.K. Simmons who played him in director Sam Raimi’s Spidey trilogy) brought a tear to my eyes.

Thankfully, under a recent development, Disney and Sony have come to terms with allowing Spider-Man to remain in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Trust me corporate honchos, there is plenty of money to go around, and the fans will thank you.

4K in action: Considering the film’s premise, viewers are privy to a wonderful visual travelogue of cities such as Venice, Prague, London and Berlin.

Although, once again, having to watch an upscaled high definition experience culled from a 2K intermediate is a bit of a bummer.

However, specifics offering crispness and enhanced color included watching the surrounding structures of Venice’s Grand Canal being soaked and destroyed by Hydro-Man; the majestic Alps (on the way to Prague) with a flaming drone coming out of the sky; multicolored fields of tulips in Netherlands; and views of London’s famed bridge being destroyed.

Perhaps the highlight of 4K power arrives watching Spider-man, in his stealth costume, stuck on the side of a Prague cathedral tower at night, set against fireworks exploding behind him.

Equally eye-opening was Mysterio’s neon-green plasma blast sticking to the fiery red and orange lava chest of Molten Man.

However, despite the tweaks, I’m also confidant that viewers will find plenty to appreciate by only watching the Blu-ray version of the film if they have not yet dived into the world of 4K.

Best extras: Viewers must load up the Blu-ray disc to mainly get 80 minutes worth of promotional featurettes that will not satisfy serious fans.

Of the 10 behind-the-scenes segments, the best offers Mr. Holland showing off his athleticism while performing many of his own practical stunts often attached to wires. Actors and crew gush their appreciation.

Viewers might also like a 5-minute closer look at the four Spider-Man suits in the film — metallic Iron Spider, red-and-blue spandex Homecoming costume, black OPS stealth suit and the new red-and-black “Far From Home” suit (made from Stark’s 3D printer no less) with comments from Mr. Holland on each.

And, worth watching is a 3-minute movie showing Peter buying stuff and preparing for his trip, including purchasing duel headphone adapters, selling his Lobot action figure (maybe) and talking down the Manfredi mob. Theses scenes were included in the recent extended-edition cut of the film seen in theaters.

I’ll also not five short segments comparing the rough digital storyboards with the final versions of scenes. Most interesting is the one with Molten Man as the initial digital design rendered was obviously used to create Hasbro’s recent Marvel Legend’s Molten Man Build-A-Figure.

What I would have loved in extras was more from J. Jonah Jameson on the Spider-Man menace, an optional commentary track from the director, or a comic book history of Spider-Man versus Mysterio.

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